MUMBAI: Over a month after JioMart went live on WhatsApp, shortage of delivery personnel at local ‘kirana’ stores in suburban Mumbai’s Thane, Navi Mumbai and Kalyan areas has stalled the company's ambitious pilot project to eventually connect millions of small provision stores to customers across the country.
Confirming the development, several kirana stores that were roped in by JioMart for the project told Mint that the services via the company have been suspended as they are unable to fulfill orders due to lack of delivery personnel. Also, the kirana stores cited above maintained that Reliance Retail Ltd is servicing customers through its own stores. "JioMart told us the orders will be paused for a few weeks, therefore, we have stopped taking orders," said owner of a supermarket in Mumbai’s Kharghar, a part of JioMart.
This comes nearly two weeks after JioMart launched its own website, jiomart.com, and services across 200 cities on 23 May. Reliance Retail operates neighbourhood stores, supermarkets, hypermarkets, wholesale, specialty and online stores. It sells staples, food, home, personal care and general merchandise.
To order on WhatsApp, customers had to add JioMart's WhatsApp number on their phones following which they would receive a link on their Whatsapp chat windows. The link, which would stay valid for 30 minutes, directed users to a new page with a catalogue of products made available to order from. Once the final order was placed, it was shared with the local kirana store on WhatsApp, following which the local store would deliver the order to the customer’s doorstep.
"Key challenge has been around the delivery as covid-19 has created issues on delivery fulfillment as well as timeline," said Jefferies India Pvt Ltd in a report dated 8 June, wherein its channel checks indicated that JioMart ordering via Whatsapp has stopped in the past two weeks. Jefferies India added that most retailers have been informed by Reliance Retail that operations will start soon and the shutdown is only temporary.
Reliance Retail, the retail arm of oil-to-telecom conglomerate, Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), operates 11,784 stores at over 6,600 plus towns and cities, more than two-thirds of them in tier-II, III and IV towns. It launched jiomart.com at a time when online grocers are seeing explosive demand given the movement curbs during the nationwide lockdown.
The B2B side, however, continues as Reliance Retail continues to take orders and supply products to the retailers and there has not been any impact on that front.
"The current environment may not be very conducive for an ambitious project of linking-up the traditional grocers, particularly when several areas in Mumbai (where the pilot was conducted) were facing covid-19 crisis," said Jefferies India, adding that this is just a timing issue and JioMart would eventually linkup traditional channel to gain scale and efficiency as potential remains immense.
On 22 April, Reliance Retail and Facebook Inc's WhatsApp entered into a commercial partnership agreement to accelerate the former's business on the JioMart platform using the instant messaging app and to support small businesses on WhatsApp.
sThe partnership was part of Facebook's $5.7 billion investment for 9.9% stake in Jio Platforms Ltd, RIL's digital subsidiary.
By leveraging the power of Whatsapp with JioMart, Jio’s small business initiative, will enable people to connect with businesses, shops and make purchases in a seamless mobile experience, Facebook had said in April.